Interview. ‘Doesn’t Meloni call herself Netanyahu's friend? Then she should convince him that he cannot go on with this carnage that has no political outcome. Instead, she does nothing.’

PD foreign officer Giuseppe Provenzano: Italy must recognize the state of Palestine

“It is a very serious matter that the Italian government abstained on the UN resolution calling for a humanitarian ceasefire in Gaza. Meloni expressed concern for Palestinian civilians and said that she was committed on the humanitarian front, didn’t she? The real humanitarian commitment is a ceasefire. And working on a peace mission,” says Giuseppe Provenzano, the PD’s foreign affairs officer, who has just returned from a trip to Israel and Palestine, where he met with Israeli President Herzog, Palestinian Prime Minister Mohammad Shtayyeh and Cardinal Pizzaballa.

At the beginning of the war, you sought to agree with the right wingers on a common line on the Middle East. Have you come to regret it?

When the government talked about a political solution and the resumption of peace talks, we were the first to express our willingness to cooperate. But the government’s recent decisions actually fly in the face of the unified position of Parliament and also run counter to widespread public sentiment. We have made detailed proposals: an international buffer mission in Gaza under the auspices of the UN, also involving the Arab countries. Italy has a diplomatic tradition and credibility acquired with the mission in Lebanon, but the premier won’t move an inch on this. Doesn’t she call herself Netanyahu’s friend? Then she should convince him that he cannot go on with this carnage that has no political outcome. Instead, she does nothing.

You too have said that Israel had a sacrosanct right to defend itself. It was not difficult to predict that its reaction would be a violent one.

Of course it had a right after the October 7 pogrom. But within the limits of international and humanitarian law. We have called on Israel from the beginning not to turn self-defense into revenge. Fighting Hamas must be the priority, not only of Israel, but of the international community. But the people of Gaza are not the same as Hamas. And the Israeli government is also supporting the violations carried out by Israeli settlers in the West Bank. This is why we demand that Italy and Europe sanction these behaviors.

Instead, what is happening is that France and Germany, along with Italy, are calling for more sanctions against Hamas.

EU High Representative for Foreign Policy Borrell was very clear about both Hamas and the release of hostages and Netanyahu’s compliance with international law. Spain has proposed a peace conference. Europe must have its own voice in the international arena, a much stronger one than it does today. Our credibility depends on it, including our support for Ukraine: we are supporting Ukraine because we believe in respect for international law, not just because we are part of NATO. And lawfulness must also apply in Palestine. In order not to appear as mere rhetoric, saying “two peoples, two states” must mean recognition of the state of Palestine: Italy should do it, as well as Europe, which was born to embody two values: peace and democracy.

Everyone knows that when it comes to the application of international law, some are more equal than others.

We cannot afford double standards; there is a global South that is increasingly critical of the West on this very charge. Pushing for a political solution in the Middle East is an opportunity to try to rebuild an international order based on shared rules. That is why we do not accept the delegitimization of the UN: it needs to be democratized, the Security Council as it is doesn’t work. But institutions need to be reformed, not torn down.

Israel is rather reluctant to accept any directives from the UN.

We support Guterres’ humanitarian appeals. What is happening in Gaza is plainly visible to all, no one can say “I didn’t know.” It is urgent to stop the massacre of civilians which can lead to escalation. Israel’s right to exist must be supported by relaunching the peace process.

There are influential leaders in the PD who support Israel’s right to self-defense without many scruples regarding the means used. They took part in protests organized by Il Foglio.

I visited the attacked Kibbutzim, where the most progressive and pacifist part of society lived. Solidarity for the October 7 pogrom is a duty. Just as Schlein’s presence at the protests against anti-Semitism was right, this is in our DNA – far more than in that of the heirs of Almirante or friends of the German AfD, like the Lega. They want a clash of civilizations. We are fighting all forms of supremacism.

A few days ago, you attended a conference organized by Gianni Cuperlo where many PD leaders reportedly made a mea culpa for talking too little about peace, particularly on Ukraine. Is there a change in the party’s line?

I sense a certain discomfort in some quarters with a PD that talks about peace. I have been to Kyiv and peace is the number one thing they want over there too – but that cannot be a surrender to Putin’s imperialist war bullying.

That has always been your line. Should we send more weapons?

I will stress our consistency. We will continue to support a people who is a victim of aggression by any means necessary. This does not prevent us from calling for a greater diplomatic effort, for being more forceful with the word “peace.”

Was your mea culpa about accusing those who were against sending arms of being “Putinists”?

Over the past two years, there has been an unacceptable attack against genuine pacifists, starting with the Catholic world, which deserves to be heard and respected. But there have also been some who tried to hijack the word “peace” with ambiguous narratives about the origin of the conflict that denied the right of Ukrainians to defend themselves. We want a just peace.

The Meloni government is threatening to veto the new Stability Pact. The fight against the return of austerity might be a popular cause; even Monti claims the new rules would hurt Italy.

But they are the ones leading us to austerity! The government got it all wrong in negotiating with Europe: they thought they could use a blunt weapon like the ratification of the ESM to blackmail other countries, and they fell flat. If you want to get a result, you need political negotiations and the right alliances, not with Abascal and Orban. Austerity is the real face of this anti-social right: they’re already practicing it in Italy, with cuts to health care, pensions and welfare.

The PD has convened a two-day event on Europe for Friday and Saturday, calling for a return to the days of solidarity and the NRRP. However, the climate has changed; and Meloni is not the only one to blame.

We want to change the EU: there was forward movement on the issue of solidarity after the pandemic, and today’s steps backward are also the result of political facts such as the victory of the right wing in our country. The European elections will be a decisive battle, and it is no accident that the Socialists have decided to hold their congress in Italy in the coming March: here is the heart of the challenge against the nationalists. This weekend we want to lay the foundations for the program by listening to social and economic forces, to the world of NGOs. EU Labor Commissioner Schmit will be present, who has supported the minimum wage directive and the new rules for platform workers. These are all things that the Meloni government doesn’t support. We want to push the EU to regain its ambition and courage for challenges in the field of environmental and social sustainability: a “green transition with a red heart.” The fight is on with the right-wingers; in Spain we managed to stop them.

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